Vijay Iyer Trio | Constellation | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Vijay Iyer Trio

Vijay Iyer Trio

When: Sat., March 28, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. and Sun., March 29, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. 2015
Price: $30, $25 in advance
Pianist and composer Vijay Iyer has never been shy about sharing the conceptual frameworks that gird his music, but his work can easily be enjoyed without knowing exactly how it’s guided. This is especially true of the luminescent, rhythmically fluid work of his 11-year-old trio with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Nevertheless, the ideas behind that trio’s fantastic new effort, Break Stuff (ECM), are too rich to ignore. In the album’s liner notes Iyer writes, “A break in music is still music: a span of time in which to act. It’s the basis for breakdowns, breakbeats, and break dancing.” Indeed, his group makes the most of those sometimes undefined, wide-open spaces. A number of the pieces were originally featured in a collaborative performance with writer Teju Cole that uses a much larger band, but it’s been a hallmark of Iyer’s work to find inventive solutions for material (like Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” or M.I.A.’s “Galang”) that would seem ill suited for a piano trio, and here he subtracts elements from those compositions and lets his band remap them—even on the album’s relatively straight version of the Thelonious Monk classic “Work,” the trio deploys some nifty rhythmic and melodic displacement. The album’s unquestionable highlight is “Hood.” Composed for techno producer Robert Hood, it’s an original piece in which Iyer and Gilmore play rigorously metric patterns that seem repetitive but exist in a constant state of metamorphosis. The pair seems to swap rhythmic and melodic roles by the end, as Crump plays a stubby ostinato that functions as the work’s crucial connective tissue. The track is one of the most exhilarating pieces of music I’ve heard all year. Elsewhere on Break Stuff the band refashions Coltrane’s hard-bop masterpiece “Countdown” and Iyer offers a brooding solo interpretation of Billy Strayhorn’s deathbed swan song “Blood Count.” On the surface Iyer’s trio is a model of composure and grace, but the ideas darting beneath the surface are as electric and bold as anything in jazz today. —Peter Margasak Early shows are all ages, late shows are 18+.
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